In my pursuit for better mental health, I’ve found a lot of self-help and recovery resources that point to comforting activities to do when you’re having intensely negative emotions or massive anxiety.
I’ve also seen mental health tips like, “do something that you love” or “take up a hobby,” to encourage emotional happiness and decrease stress.
Both of these are good tips, but without practical and personal application, they become meaningless.
I got frustrated making my own list of comforting activities because I confuse comfort and pleasure. I’m not very good at self-care, and I had a hard time making the list because of my confusion. Unless I sat down to confront the differences, I could be engaging in the wrong type of activity for my needs.
So in order to better serve my mental health, I have to distinguish between comfort and pleasure. It looks something like this:
Comfort is soothing, distraction, calming, and healing
While it can certainly be enjoyable, the main benefit is that it is soothing and calming. It will both center me and distract me from any harmful stimuli (especially negative thoughts). Some comforting things to me would be:
- Listening to soothing, relaxing music (smooth jazz is my go-to)
- Tactile comforts like playing with kinetic sand or squishing a rubbery toy
- ASMR videos
- Lighting a candle
- The smell of printed magazines or books
- Taking a bath
- Using face masks
- Opening the blinds during a sunny day or stepping outside for a moment to absorb some sunlight
- Looking at the stars/galaxies (outside or pictures online)
- Breathing exercises
Pleasure is fun, enjoyable, rewarding, exciting, makes your heart pump, floods you with dopamine
Like I said before, pleasure and comfort can cross paths, but the main benefit of seeking pleasurable or enjoyable activities is ultimately about increasing happiness. Seeking hobbies and interests which you’re passionate about gives your life purpose and fulfillment. Here are the activities that really get my blood pumping:
- Music – especially listening through a good pair of headphones
- Connecting with people who make my heart happy, who make me laugh, who really get me
- Playing video games
- Learning new things, especially about vocabulary, space, deep sea, or psychology
- Making videos/short films to tell the stories I envision
When to Use These Activities
Now that we know the difference, here is how I like to utilize the items in each category:
- High anxiety
- Stressful situation
- Being upset or sad
- Bad mood
- Feeling listless or restless
- Being in a rut
What are some things on your comfort list or pleasure list?